The meetings begin with prayers for the repose of the soul of Bishop Giffard, then an invited speaker gives a paper on some subject of interest to priests. The Litany of Loreto is said in the Church, followed by the singing of the Salve. The meeting then moves to a convenient local restaurant for lunch. The venue at the moment is the presbytery of the Holy Trinity, Brook Green.
Today's guest speaker was Fr John Saward, a married former Anglican priest who is now parish priest of St Gregory's in Oxford. He is the author of Redeemer in the Womb and several other works. Fr Saward is pictured here (right) with Fr Marcus Holden:
His subject today was the sacredness of the Liturgy and the sense of sin in the priest. He drew attention to the prayers of the classical Roman rite in which the priest confesses his sins and asks forgiveness. Some of those he spoke of are found in the preparation for Mass, the vesting prayers, the prayers at the foot of the altar, the aufer a nobis and the oramus te, the offertory prayers, the canon and the prayers in preparation for Holy Communion.
He drew attention to the striking absence of these prayers in the modern Roman rite and suggested that when celebrating the modern rite, the priest needed to pray for the gift of compunction, perhaps using some of the traditional prayers that could legitimately be used as private prayers by the priest.
In the third part of the paper, he spoke of the importance of the sense of sin for the priest, hand in hand with his awareness of the majesty of the mysteries that he is celebrating. The comparison of the old and new rites of Mass was not given with any polemical intention but simply in order to draw attention to a dimension of priestly prayer that has been played down in recent decades.
Fr Saward drew attention to one striking difference that shocked me when I first celebrated the classical rite. In the third of the prayers before communion, the classical rite has the text
Perceptio Corporis tui, Domine Iesu Christe, quod ego indignus sumere praesumo, non mihi proveniat in iudicium et condemnationem; sed pro tua pietate prosit mihi ad tutamentum mentis et corporis et ad medelam percipiendam: Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.This may be translated as:
May the reception of your Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, unworthy, presume to receive, not result for me in judgment and condemnation, but, according to your mercy, may it benefit me for the protection of mind and body, and for receiving remedy: who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.
In the new rite, this prayer is given as the second option for the priest to say quietly before Holy Communion. The words corporis tui are changed to corporis et sanguinis tui, which is perhaps uncontroversial. But the words quod ego indignus sumere praesumo (which I, unworthy, presume to receive) are omitted.
I agree with Fr Saward that it is difficult to think of any possible benefit that has been brought to the Church by striking out this phrase.